Travelling Alone – My Top Tips and Why You Should Try It
I have travelled alone for as long as I can remember. When I was about 7 years old I would take a plane by myself to go and visit my Grandparents in Ireland. Then when I was 15 I was sent off around Europe on modelling jobs.
As I’ve grown older I have travelled through South America doing big chunks of it by myself, some with friends.
A recent solo trip involved me riding my motorbike back from Sweden through Copenhagen, Berlin, Frankfurt and Amsterdam over the course of 10 days – it was a lot of fun!
I just got back from an amazing solo trip to New York, what a city! I met some amazing people and had a lot of fun on the way.
I try and make at least one big solo trip per year, I learn a lot about myself and experience places in a completely different way than if I were with a friend or family member.
Fundamentally, if I want to do something, I am probably going to do it! I think it’s a big shame when people miss out on experiences because they are too afraid to go and do something alone.
Having no one to travel with is one of the most frequently cited reasons that prevents people from going traveling. Solo travel almost isn’t even considered as an option due to worries about it being boring, lonely and unsafe.
In this article I am going to explain why I think everyone should try solo travelling, and my top tips for giving it a go!
Why do it?
There are many reasons why I think solo travelling can make you a better person, but these are the top three:
- Freedom – ever travelled with a friend and realised quite early on the trip that you have very different interests and tastes? This doesn’t happen when you travel alone. The world is your oyster! Imagine what it would be like for once in your life to be totally and utterly selfish without it being a bad thing. Imagine how good it would feel to just do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. That’s what solo travel gives you, every day. It’s an incredibly liberating experience and I love it.
- You meet more people – Many people don’t particularly enjoy having to put themselves out there and talk to strangers in order to make new friends. This is exactly what happens to most people when traveling with another person – there is no need to meet anyone else. I’ve been guilty of this countless times in the past. You already have your friend with you to sightsee or go to that bar with so unless someone happens to strike up a conversation with you, you don’t make an effort. This is a big shame. Just think of all the incredible people you might have met but didn’t because you stayed in your comfort zone. Travelling alone forces you to meet new people and experience new situations.
- It builds self-confidence – If you’re naturally a shy person the thought of solo travel can be terrifying. However, being shy is even more of a reason to travel solo. Travel is one of the best environments to work on aspects of your personality that you might like to change. Think of it as a new skill, at first it will be very difficult. But, with time you will get better and better at it.
Your new-found skill will crossover into your normal day to day life. Being able to talk to anyone in any situation without depending on alcohol or friends is seriously empowering.
- You spend all your time alone – People are often surprised when I point out that travelling solo can actually be more sociable than travelling with a friend. You are forced to meet new people. The best thing about traveling solo is that you’re not the only one doing it. More and more people are considering the concept of solo traveling to be realistic these days. Since so many other people are in the same boat, they tend to be pretty outgoing and friendly, so making new friends is easy!
- It’s dangerous – There are many movies that depict travelling solo as a dangerous thing, compounded with the fact that the media fear monger and creates an environment of fear. Staying safe whilst travelling solo is all about trusting your intuition, behaving abroad like you would at home. Would you get incredibly drunk alone at a bar at home? Would you walk around alone at night? Always practice common sense. What keeps you alive at home will keep you alive when travelling.
- You must be extraordinarily brave – A lot of my friends think I am extremely brave and independent because I travel alone. The honest truth is that I was initially quite scared and overwhelmed when I first travelled solo. To fear what you don’t know is just to be human. It’s in our nature. Despite being nervous, I did it anyway. Later I laughed at how scared I had been! You don’t have to be sure of everything and incredibly courageous to go traveling on your own. Those things may come as a nice benefit of traveling solo, but they don’t have to be prerequisites. The hardest part is getting on the plane. After that, it’s surprisingly easy to get around language barriers, figure out timetables, and have an adventure. Plenty of locals speak at least some English, and Google Maps, translation apps, and phone connectivity have all made traveling so much easier than it used to be.
My Top Tips
- Don’t stay in a Hostel – Unless you are in a country where the language/cultural barrier is vast, staying in a hostel is a mistake. Try couch surfing or rent a room in someone’s apartment. This will give you an automatic connection to local people. Staying in hostels can mean you experience a very inauthentic touristy side of the country you are visiting. It’s kind of like being at a University Freshers week, drinking games, large groups of rowdy people, local people stay well away from you!
- Get organised – Research your destination before you arrive. Make a list of places you want to visit, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions etc. Then, once you arrive decide what you are going to go and visit, I usually make a plan for the day and then meet people along the way. Be flexible with your plans though, things can change at any moment when you meet new people!
- Get familiar with google maps – Google maps is my best friend when I’m travelling solo. Use the “star” feature to favourite places on the map. I then wonder around and whenever I feel hungry or want a drink ill look to see what I have starred in that area.
- Look for group guided activities – This can be a great way to meet new people. Airbnb now has “experiences” where local people organise tours, events, and experiences for visitors.
- Learn to go with the flow – One tremendous benefit of traveling alone is that you can change your plans without consulting anyone else about anything. This is a luxury you should not resist, as it is almost non-existent in regular day-to-day life; if you like an idea, go for it! The sense of freedom is exhilarating.
- Stay in control – Try not to fall into the trap of using alcohol as a social lubricant. Keep a tab on your alcohol consumption. If you are not in control of yourself, you become a mark for thieves and other bad people, and with no wing person to help you out, you could get in trouble. Teetotaling is not required but getting hammered might not be your best option.
Learning to travel solo has taught me so much about myself, the world I live in and bought a new appreciation and connection to other people. There are so many benefits, plus, it’s a life skill that will translate into all aspects of your life. Like with anything it will seem daunting and difficult at first, but you will get really good at it – life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.